JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA
— Zimbabwe’s general public doesn't vote until Wednesday, but already there are cries of fraud.
Critics of Zimbabwe’s government say the electoral commission has committed an act of “massive voter disenfranchisement” ahead of Wednesday’s voting. A website called MyZimVote
says it has received thousands of complaints from voters who say they are incorrectly registered or not registered at all.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who is challenging longtime President Robert Mugabe for the third time, last week accused election officials of discarding some of the ballots cast by some 70,000 police and soldiers who were allowed to vote early. The discarded ballots, he noted, were all in the prime minister's favor.
Other critics say Mugabe’s loyalists have tampered with the vote ahead of time. Human Rights Watch has also heard concerns.
“Our reports highlighted our concerns around the voters’ roll and the fact that it hasn’t been updated," said Africa Advocacy Director Tiseke Kasambala. "We received reports that there are ghost voters on that roll, or the names of dead people, up to a million dead people, on the voters’ roll. And that has been a serious concern for us, because it means that it’s possible that there could be fraudulent activity related to the voters’ roll."
For the first time, Zimbabweans can check their voter registration online at MyZimVote
, which compiled a database from the official voter roll. Organizers say one million people have used the site to check their status.
According to the website’s crowd-sourced reports page, anomalies abound. One respondent said his father was still on the Harare voter roll, despite having died in 2002.
Dozens of visitors to the site –
many of them expatriate Zimbabweans who are not allowed to vote abroad –
say they never registered but are on the rolls. More than 100 people reported on the site that they registered to vote but are not on the books.
The state-run newspaper has said the site is based on a bogus voters’ roll, and officials from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission have said they are investigating the site.
On Monday, the website issued a statement saying it was being “targeted and intimidated” by the electoral commission, and said organizers of the site would not be able to give media interviews out of fear that a named spokesperson could be targeted as well.
Electoral commission officials could not be reached for comment.